My dear Theo,
Yesterday I sent three packets by parcel post containing studies which I hope you’ll receive in good order. I really must thank you for the 10 metres of canvas, which have just arrived.1
Among the studies you’ll find the following, which are for our mother and sister. Olive trees2 – Bedroom3 – Reaper4 – Working with plough5 – Wheatfield with cypresses6 – Orchard in blossom7 – Portrait.8
The remainder is above all autumn studies9 and I think the best one is the yellow mulberry tree against a very blue sky.10 Then the study of the house and of the park, of which there are two variants.11 The studies on no. 30 canvases weren’t yet dry and will follow later. They’re giving me a lot of trouble, and sometimes I find them very ugly, sometimes they look good to me – perhaps you’ll have the same impression when you see them. There are a dozen of them, so it’s more substantial than what I’ve just sent.12
In spite of the cold I’m continuing to work outside up to now, and I think that it’s good for me and for the work.
The last study I did is a view of the village – where people were at work – under enormous plane trees – repairing the pavements. So there are piles of sand, stones and the gigantic tree-trunks – the yellowing foliage, and here and there glimpses of a house-front and little figures.13  1v:2
I often think of you and Jo, but with a feeling as if there was an enormous distance from here to Paris and as if it were years since I saw you. I hope that your health is good, for myself I can’t complain, I feel absolutely normal, so to speak, but without ideas for the future, and truly I don’t know what it’s going to be, and perhaps I’m avoiding going into this question deeply, sensing that I can do nothing about it.
I’ve finished, or almost, the copy of The diggers too.14
You’ll see that there are no more impastos in the large studies. I prepare the thing with sorts of washes with spirits, and then proceed with touches or hatchings of colour with spaces between them. This imparts atmosphere and uses less paint.
If I want to send this letter off today I must hurry, so handshake in thought and warm regards to Jo.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 826 | CL: 618
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 7 December 1889

1. In his previous letter (823), Van Gogh had asked for 10 metres of canvas.
2. This study of olive trees is not known; in letter 806 Van Gogh wrote that it was a smaller version of one of his canvases of olive trees.
3. The bedroom (F 483 / JH 1793 [2845]). The canvas came into Willemien’s possession (FR b4162). See also Account book 2002, p. 20 (n. 33) and Heijbroek and Wouthuysen 1993, p. 196.
4. Reaper (F 619 / JH 1792 [2844]). It is not known if the canvas came into the possession of Mrs van Gogh and Willemien; Jo sold it to Cassirer in 1902. See Account book 2002, p. 181.
5. Field with a ploughman (F 625 / JH 1768 [2825]). This painting belonged to Willemien van Gogh. See Account book 2002, p. 181.
6. Wheatfield and cypresses (F 743 / JH 1790 [2842]). It is not known if the canvas came into the possession of Mrs van Gogh and Willemien.
7. It is unclear which painting this refers to. Orchard in blossom at the foot of the Alpilles (F 723 / JH 1722 [2795]), the only work with blossoming orchards from Saint-Rémy, dates from January-February 1890. It is unlikely that Van Gogh is referring to an olive grove, as Pickvance assumed in exh. cat. New York 1986 (p. 301), since in that case Van Gogh would have written ‘verger d’oliviers’. Furthermore, he never mentions blossoming olive groves in his letters, nor are there any paintings known of this subject. He could not be referring to the studies of blossoming orchards made in Arles in 1888, because he had already sent them to Theo (see letter 606). He had also sent the paintings of blossoming orchards made in Arles in 1889 (see letters 789 and 805).
8. Self-portrait with clean-shaven face (F 525 / JH 1665 [2769]). It is not known if the canvas ever came into the possession of Mrs van Gogh and Willemien; Jo sold it to Cassirer in 1910. See Account book 2002, p. 177.
9. It cannot be said with certainty which autumn studies were in this consignment, apart from the ones mentioned by Van Gogh later on in the letter. The possibilities include Field with a ploughman (F 706 / JH 1794), Poplars in the mountains (F 638 / JH 1797 [2848]), Trees in the garden of the asylum (F 640 / JH 1800 [2851]), Trees in the garden of the asylum (F 731 / JH 1801), Entrance to a quarry (F 635 / JH 1767 [2824]), View of the church near the asylum (F 803 / JH 2124), The garden of the asylum (‘Leaf-fall’) (F 651 / JH 1844 [2864]) and Pine trees in the garden of the asylum (F 643 / JH 1799 [2850]).
[2848] [2851] [904] [2824] [905] [2864] [2850]
10. Mulberry tree (F 637 / JH 1796 [2847]).
11. These two variants are probably The garden of the asylum (F 660 / JH 1849 [2865]) and The garden of the asylum (F 659 / JH 1850 [2866]). See Hendriks and Van Tilborgh 2001, p. 155. In letters 834 and 891, Van Gogh uses the word ‘variantes’ for two works with the same composition, so that must also be the case here. Van Gogh’s wording seems to suggest that both variants were in the consignment, but it is unlikely that the second version (F 659), which was made some time in November (see letter 822), was already dry enough to send.
[2865] [2866]
12. This remark could imply that the consignment did not contain any no. 30 canvases. Later on, however, it appears that Van Gogh’s mention of ‘studies on no. 30 canvases’, refers rather to a new series of no. 30 canvases, on which he was still working. In a letter written several days later to Willemien, Vincent also speaks of 12 large canvases (see letter 827, n. 12). He sent eleven to Theo on 3 January (see letter 834).
13. Road menders (‘The tall plane trees’) (F 657 / JH 1860 [2872]). In letter 834 Van Gogh writes that the repetition is ‘more finished’; F 657 is less detailed and must therefore be the first version referred to here. Cf. exhib. cat. New York 1986, p. 171.
14. Diggers (after Millet) (F 648 / JH 1833 [2856]). Van Gogh painted it after a photo of Millet’s The two diggers [1876]. See letter 805, n. 7.
[2856] [1876]